Conservation Grazing: An Opportunity for Land Trusts and Conservation Organizations

Jan 22, 2014 | by
  • Description

Open just about any book or field guide on prairies and you are bound to see reference made to the loss of species resulting from livestock agriculture. Frequently, that tight causal relationship between livestock and loss of species is all the exposure that many conservationists may have had on the subject. Yet research by the Nature Conservancy and several universities has helped demonstrate that well-managed grazing effectively supports conservation goals (see references).

This report does not delve deeply into the details of different grazing approaches or how to establish the appropriate grazing strategy for any given piece of land. Such information is highly contexted specific and best learned through association with the Pasture Project or other conservation grazing specialists. Rather, the report lays out some of the issues associated with the decision to graze domestic livestock on conservation lands. Since many land trust and conservation organizations are relatively new to thinking of grazing as a habitat management tool, we're focused here on the basics.

There are many reasons why a land trust or other conservation organization might consider conservation grazing on their lands or as one of their projects. These could be for neighbor/community relations, revenue generation, and habitat management among others. Still, there remains some resistance to this management tool by some whose primary focus is biodiversity conservation.

Audubon has recently implemented conservation grazing to accomplish grassland bird conservation goals. Transitioning from an organization somewhat suspicious of grazing to one that embraces it as a critical management tool for healthy grasslands was a process. The challenges identified in this paper, the recognition of the opportunity and need, and the implied path forward are drawn primarily from Audubon's recent experience.